Presbyterian Church USA leaders visit SodaStream factory to gain better perspective on Israel

( A delegation of 14 clergy and lay leaders from Presbyterian Church USA, which has a history of anti-Israel sentiment, visited the SodaStream factory in Israel this week in an effort to better understand the region.

Presbyterian Church USA leaders at the SodaStream factory in Ma'ale Adumim. Credit: AIFL.

Sodastream, the popular beverage carbonation company, has garnered headlines recently over the signing of Jewish-American actress Scarlett Johansson as its spokeswoman.

Johansson stepped down as a global ambassador for the human rights group Oxfam International, which had criticized her for her role with the company that operates a factory located over the Green Line in the Jewish community of Ma’ale Adumim.

The Presbyterian Church, which has been highly critical of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians for years, recently published an anti-Israel study guide called “Zionism Unsettled” and may also vote to endorse boycotts of Israel at its upcoming summer convention.

The visit to SodaStream was organized by the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL), whose mission is to “strengthen the relationships between the American and Israeli people.” The group hoped to shed more light on the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict to the delegation.

SodaStream, despite its controversial location, employs 500 Palestinian Arabs among its 1,300 workers. The company touts itself as a model for cooperation and business between Israelis and Palestinians.

"These days when there are many voices calling to boycott Israel both in the business and academia regions, it is crucial to bring leaders and influential figures to change these ideas and to help form a positive and supportive opinion about Israel,” stated Ruby Shamir, executive director of AIFL.

Posted on February 21, 2014 .